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Penn State rallies past Wisconsin in Big Ten title game

Wisconsin Badgers players walk to the locker room after the Big Ten Championship game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports)

Jeff Washburn

The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- With 5:15 left in the second quarter of Saturday night's Big Ten championship game in Lucas Oil Stadium and Penn State on the short end of a 28-7 score against Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions' receiving corps conferenced with quarterback Trace McSorley.

"The receivers came to me and said, 'Follow the game plan,'" McSorley said. "I knew I had to start taking what the defense gave me."

From that point on, the junior quarterback took plenty, completing 22 of 31 passes for a Big Ten championship game-record 384 yards and a title game-record four touchdowns in No. 7 Penn State's 38-31 victory over the No. 6 Badgers in front of a crowd of 65,018.

"We got it going in the second quarter and then just carried it over into the second half," said McSorley, who led Penn State to its ninth consecutive victory. "We had to trust the system and trust the game plan."

McSorley's 18-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley with 13:41 remaining gave the Nittany Lions (11-2) a 35-31 lead -- their first of the game -- and Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal with 5:14 to play, extending the lead to 38-31.

Wisconsin (10-3) drove from its 25-yard line to the Penn State 24, but Badgers running back Corey Clement was stopped just short of the line to gain on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to go and Penn State exhausted the remaining time.

"We just won the toughest conference in the nation," Penn State coach James Franklin said when asked if the Nittany Lions deserve a Bowl Championship Series playoff spot. "It's time to stop talking about our 2-2 start, and let's start talking about the last nine games. Tonight, it came down to players, and they did some special things."

McSorley's 70-yard touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall with 10:58 to play in the third quarter pulled Penn State within 28-21. Barkley's 1-yard touchdown run with 4:22 left in the third quarter tied it at 28.

Blacknall caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, and Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton caught eight passes for 118 yards, helping the Nittany Lions gain 435 yards -- 20 more than Wisconsin, which got 21 carries for 164 rushing yards from Clement.

Wisconsin took a brief 31-28 lead on Andrew Endicott's 23-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the third quarter, but Penn State scored the game's final 10 points to win its first Big Ten title game.

"We came down here confident that we would play well," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "We will bounce back. "There were a couple of pivotal moments in the second quarter when we got a turnover and didn't score.

"And (Penn State) came right down and scored right before the half to make it 28-14. The first drive of the second half, I thought we had a chance to punch it in and get a touchdown and we didn't."

Clement said the Penn State stop on fourth down summed up the game.

"It's just all about who wanted it more," Clement said. "It's one yard. Either got it or didn't. But I'm pretty sure everybody on that field laid it out on the line for that last play."

The Badgers built a 28-14 halftime lead, scoring in a variety of ways, including linebacker Ryan Connelly's 12-yard fumble return after a bad snap from center from Penn State's shotgun formation. That touchdown, with 9:42 remaining in the second quarter, increased the Badgers' lead to 21-7.

On the next series, Penn State failed on a fourth-down play from its 42-yard line, setting up yet another Wisconsin touchdown.

The Badgers drove 42 yards in five plays, taking a 21-point lead on Dare Ogumbowale's 7-yard touchdown run with 5:15 remaining in the first half.

Wisconsin opened the scoring with 5:27 left in the first quarter on Austin Ramesh's 1-yard run, capping a 14-play, 81-yard drive that included Bart Houston's 24-yard pass to Jazz Peavy to the Penn State 3-yard line.

Clement ran 67 yards for a touchdown with 3:06 to go in the first quarter, pushing Wisconsin to a 14-0 lead.

Penn State pulled within 14-7 with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter on McSorley's 33-yard touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki. The Nittany Lions drove 75 yards in five plays for that score.

With 58 seconds left in the second quarter, McSorley threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Blacknall, capping an eight-play, 90-yard drive.

NOTES: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement rushed 10 times for 98 yards during the first quarter. ... Penn State twice failed on fourth-down attempts in the second quarter. ... Wisconsin entered the Big Ten title game with a six-game winning streak, compiling a 19.3-point average margin in those six victories. ... Penn State came in with an eight-game winning streak, compiling a 22.7-point average margin in those victories. ... In the first half, Wisconsin ran 36 plays for 230 yards and Penn State had 35 plays for 212 yards.